If we allow it to, regret can totally consume us and the pain of it can contribute to our addictions and depression. Our cycles of addiction can bring us more regret as we accumulate years of self-destructing, making mistakes and hurting other people. Regret can be a bitter poison that eats away at our joy and chips away at our self-esteem. When we live weighed down by the burden of shame, it can taint everything – how we see ourselves, how we operate in relationships, how we interact with the world. How can we work our recovery so that we can leave our shame behind and not let our futures be marred by the stain of regret?
Recovering in a profound way means healing our emotional issues in addition to choosing abstinence from our addictive substances and behaviors. Sometimes we want to just rid ourselves of the addictive behavior, but when we don’t process the underlying issues, we’re only scratching the surface of our problem. One of the things we often want to avoid thinking about at all costs is our regret. We feel an instant sense of shame and remorse when confronted with memories of our regret. We might feel anxiety or even panic begin to take hold. We might feel angry with and disappointed in ourselves. Recovery, therefore, must include work on self-forgiveness if we’re to really heal.
Let’s look at our regrets more closely rather than what we usually do which is try to avoid thinking about them altogether. You might want to write them down and journal about them. When we think about difficult things head on, and when we write them about them, we take away some of the power that they gained from our fear and avoidance. By facing them directly, we can start to desensitize ourselves to them, and gradually their painful sting starts to recede.
Looking at our regrets, let’s try to be objective for a moment. Let’s play back the story of the situation and remove ourselves from the narrative entirely. Let’s pretend someone else is living the experience. Maybe it’s a friend or family member experiencing it instead of you. If they committed the same mistake or wrongdoing, would you be able to forgive them? Would you be able to understand why they did it? Would you be able to see a deeper context for why and how things played out the way they did? Chances are, you’re able to forgive them in this visualization exercise, and you see that they were doing the best they could with where they were in their lives at that particular moment. Now reinsert yourself into the situation. Can you give yourself that same understanding, forgiveness and compassion? Practice this sort of exercise as one way to help you work through regret.
Riverside Recovery employs people in recovery. We understand firsthand all of the regret that can come with living with addiction. Call (800) 871-5440 today for more information on our treatment programs.